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25 Points From Walker Not Enough For VU Men’s Basketball 

 

For the second time in as many Missouri Valley Conference road games, the Valparaiso University men’s basketball team erased a double-figure first-half deficit prior to halftime, but Bradley would claim the lead for good early in the second half as the Crusaders fell Wednesday night in Peoria, Ill. by an 80-71 final.

How It Happened

          Bradley connected on its first five shots from the floor over the opening four minutes, while the Crusaders went 0-for-4 over the same stretch as the Braves led 11-0 at the first media timeout.

          But Bradley would go just 8-for-22 from the field and commit 10 turnovers over the remainder of the half, as Valpo’s defense allowed the Crusaders to get back into the game.

          Valpo made strides using the 3-pointer, as senior Tevonn Walker (Montreal, Quebec/Vanier College) knocked down two triples and sophomore Micah Bradford (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) hit one in the first 10 minutes as well.

          Consecutive triples from sophomore Bakari Evelyn (Detroit, Mich./ Hillcrest Academy/Southfield Christian [Nebraska]) in a span of 42 seconds gave Valpo the lead at 20-19 with 7:45 to play in the first half, just eight minutes after being down by 11.

          The Crusaders stretched their lead to four points twice late in the half and led by three with 35 seconds to play on a highlight-reel dunk from sophomore Markus Golder (Portland, Ore./Clackamas [North Idaho]), but a 3-pointer from Bradley’s Nate Kennell tied the score at 33-33 at the break.

          The teams battled for control early in the second half, as neither team led by more than two points over the first five minutes.

          A pair of free throws from sophomore Jaume Sorolla (Tortosa, Spain/Sunrise Christian [Kan.] Academy) with 15:37 to play tied the score at 39-all, but the Braves scored the next six points over the next two minutes to take the lead for good.

          Golder connected on a 3-pointer with 13:17 remaining to bring Valpo within 47-44, but the Crusaders would miss their next nine field goal attempts  over the next four minutes in their quest to even the score.

          Valpo would be unable to cut the lead any closer the rest of the way. In the late minutes, the Crusaders got as close as five points following a 3-point play from Walker, but Bradley hit 10 out of 12 free throws down the stretch to prevent Valpo from closing the gap.

Inside the Game

          Walker came up one point shy of his career high on Wednesday, finishing with a game-high 25 points – buoyed by a 10-for-10 performance from the foul line. Walker also paced the Crusaders with seven rebounds.

          Golder was the only other Valpo player to score in double figures, finishing with 11 points and three assists in 19 minutes off the bench.

          The Crusaders suffered through their worst shooting performance of the year from the field, finishing 20-for-61 (32.8%). After going 6-for-14 from 3-point range in the first half, Valpo was just 2-for-8 in the second half.

          Valpo did finish at a 74.2% clip from the foul line (23-for-31), its best single-game performance since Nov. 25.

          The Crusaders found themselves out-rebounded by a 45-30 margin by the Braves, the largest margin they have been out-rebounded by this season. Valpo, which entered conference play among the nation’s leaders in rebounding margin, has been out-rebounded in all three Valley games.

          Donte Thomas led four Bradley (12-4, 2-1 MVC) players in double figures with 19 points and also grabbed 12 rebounds as Bradley improved to 8-0 at home this year. The Braves hit 25-of-49 (51%) from the field, and after going just 4-of-9 from the foul line in the first half, were 22-of-27 from the stripe in the second half.

          The Crusaders fell to 0-3 in MVC play with Wednesday’s loss, its worst start to conference play since opening Mid-Con action in 1999-2000 with a 0-3 mark.

Next Up

Valpo (9-7, 0-3 MVC) looks for its first Valley win on Saturday afternoon as the Crusaders host Southern Illinois at the ARC at 3 p.m. The game can be seen live on the MVC TV Network, including in the Valpo area on NBC Sports Chicago, and can be heard – like always – on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso). Links for all the live coverage will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.